Friday 30 July 2021

Happy Saint Ignatius Day!

Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the extraordinary saint who founded the Society of Jesus and after whom our College is named. The celebration this year takes place within an Ignatian Year which began on 20 May with the 500th anniversary of Ignatius being injured by the cannonball in the Battle of Pamplona. This was the moment in which Ignatius’ worldly dreams were shattered; he was a young man perhaps in this late 20s or possibly aged 30, left wondering what will come of his life. At the time, he could never have imagined how God would accompany him, teach him and mould him his heart, mind and soul over the remaining 35 years of his life. Today we continue to be the beneficiaries of God’s generous love to Ignatius, being people who are part of a living tradition that emerged as the new life from this moment of devastation in the life of Inigo de Loyola.

The theme of this Ignatian Year is “to see all things new in Christ”. The Jesuits and all our ministries across the world have been encouraged by Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, the current Superior General of the Jesuits, to focus on Ignatius as the pilgrim, the ascetic and the patient. We know that in the decade that followed the Battle of Pamplona, as part of his spiritual transformation Ignatius undertook many pilgrimages – firstly to the Benedictine Monastery in Montserrat where he laid down his sword before the Black Madonna [pictured left] as a sign of renouncing his former way of life. After spending an extraordinary year in Manresa in 1522 where Ignatius had several mystical experiences, including alongside the Cardoner River, he went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem so he could walk in the places where Jesus had walked.

Upon his return to Spain, he lived and studied in a number of places including Barcelona, Alcala, and Salamanca before moving to Paris to undertake his studies in philosophy and theology. It is extraordinary to recall that much of this travel took place on foot, Ignatius walking across Europe, with a disfigured and at times painful leg, in shoes that did not have the modern-day cushioning!

While in Paris, we know he crossed the English Channel to London to go begging to support himself and other students in Paris. For us Jesuits, Paris is an important place as this is where Ignatius met St Francis Xavier and St Peter Faber. Together they were roommates, studying at the University of Paris. Ignatius wanted to share with others what he had learnt about God and the human person, especially the movement of the spirits within us; he loved engaging others in spiritual conversation. On 15 August 1534, Ignatius, Xavier, Faber and three other companions gathered in the small Chapel of St Denis at the base of Montmartre and took vows of chastity and poverty. Over the following six years they continued to discern what God was asking of them and this led to the founding of a new religious order in 1540: the Society of Jesus.

Earlier today, the 16 Houses on the Senior Campus and the eight Homerooms on the Regis Campus came together to celebrate Saint Ignatius through a virtual prayer service. As part of this service, seven students were asked to share what it means to them to be part of a Jesuit school. I know I was deeply impressed and consoled by what the students had to say.

Term 3 continues to be a challenging time for staff, students, and our families, as well as the Greater Sydney region. With the announcement of the lockdown being extended for another four weeks, it is very easy to become disheartened. I know from living through the extended lockdown in Melbourne last year that there can be moments of great frustration as well as feelings of flatness and despondency. After a while each day feels a bit like a ‘Groundhog Day’ and you can wonder when this will end.

As I have mentioned on several occasions, I found it helpful each day to spend some time reflecting upon what it is that I was and am grateful for as a way of cultivating life and hope. I am sure many of you, like me, are grateful for the current Olympic Games, including the uplifting performances of so many Australian athletes, especially our swimmers and rowers.

One of the other things that is lifting my spirits is the prospect of the upcoming change of seasons and the return of warmer weather and longer days. Over this last week, a few of us have put together a dedicated page of Spiritual Resources that you may find helpful in the coming weeks as a way of fostering your own spirit and thus contributing to maintaining your own wellbeing in this challenging time.

On behalf of Fr Joe and the Jesuit Community here at Riverview, Happy Saint Ignatius Day! May our God of life, hope and love bless you and your families at this time.

Fr Tom Renshaw